Are you looking to improve your metabolic health? If so, you may want to consider following a Pro Metabolic Diet. This type of eating plan is designed to help optimize your body’s metabolism and promote better overall health. 

In this article, I’ll share an overview of what a pro metabolic diet entails, as well as some general guidelines, pro metabolic foods, and what not to eat on a pro metabolic approach.

A clock with a fork as a hand surrounded by nuts, vegetables, and salmon.

What is metabolism?

Put simply, metabolism is the process your body uses to convert the foods you eat into energy. It involves thousands of chemical reactions, all controlled by specific proteins. 

The process begins when you eat and your digestive system uses enzymes to change the food into forms your body can use. Carbohydrates become simple sugars, fats become fatty acids, and proteins are broken down into amino acids.

These compounds are then absorbed by the blood and delivered to cells, where they can be used as sources of energy. Sometimes this energy is released for use, and sometimes it is stored to be used later. The tissues that store energy are mainly found in body fat, muscles, and the liver.

There are actually two different kinds of metabolism, both of which happen simultaneously.

The first is anabolism. This is a “constructive” metabolism involved with cell growth in the body, the building of new tissues, and the storage of energy.

The other is catabolism. This is the process where body tissues and energy stores are broken down to increase the body’s fuel supply for certain functions.

What is the metabolic rate?

This is the speed of your metabolism. Also known as calorie expenditure, it represents how many calories your body burns within a set amount of time.

There are actually various types of metabolic rates. For example, your metabolic rate when you are sleeping or fully resting is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Even though you may be at rest, there are still lots of reactions going on in your body to support your heart rate, your breathing, the maintenance of your body temperature, etc.

The resting metabolic rate (RMR) refers to the rate of metabolism your body uses to support itself when at rest.

You may also have heard of the TEF, which is the thermic effect of food. This is how many calories your body burns as it digests food. And the increase in calories when you exercise is called the TEE – the thermic effect of exercise.

Of course, any amount of movement outside of rest – just walking around, for example, or even standing still – will burn more calories than resting. So this has its own category in terms of metabolism – NEAT, which stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

Two hands tying a gym shoe.

What affects your metabolic rate?

There are certain factors that can affect your rate of metabolism.

Some hormonal disorders can slow your metabolism down. So can aging – partly because older people tend to move around less, but also because certain bodily functions become less efficient as we age.

But there are other factors that can actually increase the metabolic rate. One of these is body size – larger people naturally burn more calories. The same effect is seen in people with a larger amount of muscle mass.

Cold weather can cause an increase in metabolism, too, as the body burns calories in working to keep you warm.

Most importantly, perhaps, your rate of metabolism is influenced by how much you move. There are even studies that show that just 45 minutes of vigorous activity can raise your metabolic rate for 14 hours – a real incentive to hit the gym or to be active! 

Plus, of course, a healthy, balanced diet – rich in nutrients – is essential for metabolic health

Signs of good metabolism

People with a  good metabolism tend to burn a lot of calories and are less likely to gain excess weight. In some cases, a fast metabolic rate can actually make it difficult for people to gain weight even when they want to.

Another sign is sweating a lot – even without too much strain. This indicates a higher basal body temperature, which tends to trigger quicker metabolic reactions.

Other indications of good metabolism include an increased appetite, a strong libido,  and having lots of energy – so much, sometimes, that it can be hard to sleep.

woman running at sunset.

Signs of poor metabolism

Weight gain is one of the most obvious signs of poor metabolism. This extra weight often appears around the middle, especially in older people (hence the phrase “middle-aged spread.”)

A sluggish metabolism may also cause gas or bloating and hormonal imbalances – sometimes leading to dry skin or thinning hair. It may even trigger imbalances in blood sugar levels

Other signs include a low sex drive, depression, insomnia, and a weakened immune system. People with a slow metabolism may also complain that they can’t lose weight no matter what.

Supporting a healthy metabolism  –  the principles of a pro metabolic diet

1. Eating within an hour of waking

The thermic effect of food (the number of calories burned while your body digests and processes it – known as TEF) represents approximately 10% of your expenditure of calories

TEF has been found to be at its highest in the morning, especially within the first few hours of waking. So to get the most benefit from this, it makes sense to consume more calories early in the day

2. Avoid caffeine on an empty stomach

Caffeine can give your metabolism a boost and studies have shown that coffee can increase the metabolic rate by between 3 and 11%. 

However, drinking coffee with an empty stomach (defined as two hours before or after you eat) is not recommended. This is because it may have a negative impact on blood sugar levels, not to mention the fact that it is also a common cause of acid reflux and can leave you feeling jittery!

Most pro metabolic experts emphasize that caffeine should not be consumed on an empty stomach.

coffee on a tabletop.

3. Eat every 2-3 hours

Remember the TEF (thermic effect of food) I mentioned earlier? That’s when your body burns more calories as it digests any food you have eaten. 

While there may not be any scientific evidence to support it, some people feel that eating frequently throughout the day raises the rate of metabolism, so that more calories are burned in this way.

Of course, portion control matters too and it would be counter-productive to eat large quantities of food every few hours. The aim should be to eat three main meals a day, plus two nutritious snacks. 

To further illustrate this point, think of your metabolism as the fire that runs your body’s processes. You have to tend to your body’s fire with fuel (food). If you go too long without fueling your body, then the fire may dwindle.

You may also want to check out my article on the dangers of intermittent fasting for women for more information on why women in particular need to eat often.

veggies served with guacamole.

4. Enjoy saturated fats and avoid too many polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)

One rather surprising element of the pro metabolic diet is ditching polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) in favor of saturated fats. 

Although there is no medical evidence to support it, the rationale is that saturated fats are more stable than polyunsaturated fats and have the necessary fatty acids to support the metabolism. 

Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, are believed by some to actually slow down metabolism and put the brakes on fat burning. 

Nutritious sources of saturated fats include coconut products like unsweetened coconut flakes and coconut oil, grass-fed meat, and grass-fed whole milk yogurt.

Foods high in polyunsaturated fats include walnuts, flax seeds, fatty fish, and sunflower seeds.

coconut milk on a tabletop.

5. Avoid refined grains

The pro-metabolic diet endorses the avoidance of refined grains

That means cutting down on things like white bread, pizza, and pasta. 

This is because refined grains take very little calorie expenditure to digest. The process of digesting whole grains, however, is more complex and your metabolism becomes a lot more active in the process. 

Good examples of whole grains include whole oats, whole wheat (only choose foods labeled “whole wheat” rather than just “wheat”), buckwheat, barley, quinoa, and brown rice.

Note that not all whole grains will be suitable for everyone, as some – particularly wheat, barley, and rye – contain gluten. These would need to be avoided by anyone with a sensitivity to gluten, or those suffering from Celiac disease.

6. Enjoy dairy products, if tolerated 

If you are not sensitive to them, good quality dairy products can play an important part in the pro metabolic diet. 

While medical research into the value of milk has not drawn any clear conclusions, it seems that foods like cheese and yogurt can be particularly beneficial to metabolic health. 

A separate study found that people who consume lots of dairy products may even experience better fat oxidation and be able to consume more energy without a subsequent gain in weight, compared to those whose diets are low in dairy products.

variety of cheese and butter on tabletop.

7. Pair carbs with protein at every meal and don’t overdo fat sources

Protein has been shown to have a significant effect when it comes to boosting metabolism.

That’s because the TEF (thermic effect of food) is greater after eating protein than other energy sources like fats and carbohydrates.

Studies have shown that eating foods high in protein can boost metabolism by an impressive 20 to 30%. 

A diet rich in protein also helps with the maintenance of muscle mass – another important factor in supporting a healthy metabolism.

Eating protein with your carbs rather than eating carbohydrates alone will also ensure a steady release of sugar into the bloodstream. This will prevent the “sugar crash” that is often associated with carb-rich foods.

While fats are another important nutrient, remember that many protein sources also contain fats. This means that you will need to take care that you are not consuming fats from too many other sources alongside your protein.

8. Prioritize sleep, stress management, and self-care

Did you know that poor sleep can disrupt your metabolism and increase your chances of gaining weight? 

Studies have shown that your metabolic rate may decrease by as much as 2.6% if you only average around four hours of sleep per night for five consecutive days.

Learning to manage your stress and take care of yourself are fundamental to getting a good night’s sleep. Explore different techniques to relieve stress, including exercise, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and more. 

You may also like my article with holistic health tips.

9. Take a “food first” approach to nourishing yourself and avoid unnecessary supplements.

Some vitamins  – especially B vitamins and vitamin D – are essential for a healthy metabolism.

But while it can be tempting to reach for a supplement to increase your levels of these nutrients, the best option is to obtain them naturally from whole foods as part of a balanced diet. 

This is because – in most cases – our bodies are better equipped to absorb nutrients from natural sources than they are from supplements. 

Furthermore, whole foods supply a wide variety of additional nutrients, fiber, and protective substances like antioxidants. They also prompt the digestive process, further boosting metabolism.

But, as always, be sure to speak with your doctor before stopping any supplements you may already be taking.

I am personally a big fan of supplements as they have so much evidence showing that they benefit health. See my related articles on the best vitamins for women over 30 and the best vitamins for women over 50.

10. Replenish your minerals either with real foods or mineral drops in your water

Calcium, iron, and magnesium are all important minerals when it comes to supporting metabolism. 

Ideally, you will obtain these minerals through a varied and balanced diet. But if you are worried that your diet isn’t supplying you with enough of these valuable nutrients, then you may want to consider adding minerals to your water, either in the form of drops, powders, tablets, or salts. 

I personally take this electrolyte supplement that I add to my water. A lot of people in the pro metabolic world like these Trace mineral drops.

Fresh fruits on a white surface.

Best Pro Metabolic foods

And don’t overlook good old water! In addition to being essential for hydration, drinking water has been shown to boost metabolism by up to 30%

FAQs

How is pro-metabolic different from paleo?

Like the paleo diet, the pro-metabolic diet includes plenty of fish, meats, vegetables, and seeds – foods that were once obtained from hunting and gathering (the principle that underpins paleo).

The big difference between the two diets, however, is that the paleo diet excludes all grains – even whole grains – and dairy products, both of which are encouraged in the pro-metabolic approach.

Can you be vegan and eat pro-metabolic?

Probably not. The pro-metabolic diet includes meat, fish, and products derived from animals. All of these are contrary to the principles of veganism, which exclude the exploitation or use of animals for food or any other purpose.

Pro Metabolic Resources

Because the pro metabolic diet is pretty new and doesn’t have a ton of science to support it, it can be hard to find quality resources to learn more. Here are a few trusted resources that I found:

Conclusions

The pro metabolic diet isn’t a “diet” in the sense that it restricts the amount of food you eat. Instead, it is more of a lifestyle approach that aims to harmonize the foods you eat with the way your body metabolizes them.

Eating in a way that supports metabolic function can have all sorts of advantages, from preventing weight gain to bringing your body back into balance.  Not only is it important to achieve, but it is a great way to connect with your body and really understand the connection between your diet and good health.

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Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.